Friday, August 12 2022

Joe Phaahla said there was a much steeper upward curve than seen in the last three waves

Joe Phaahla, South African Minister of Health

South Africa was witnessing the fourth wave of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, its Minister of Health, Joe Phaahla, said in his statement on December 3, 2021, days after the detection of the Omicron widget in the country.

He added that the situation this time was much more worrying. “There’s a much steeper upward curve than ever over the last three waves,” Phaahla said.

He appreciated the country’s genomics and surveillance network for Omicron detection and reporting.

But he criticized travel bans imposed on South Africa and neighboring countries in the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

These include Angola, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Seychelles and Zambia.

Travel restrictions have also been imposed on Ethiopia in East Africa and Nigeria in the western part of the continent.

Doyin Odubanjo, a leading public health expert, said in an interview that such travel bans were of little value. South African President Cyril Ramaphosa also criticized the bans imposed on African nations and said they were “unscientific”.

The bans have undermined international cooperation and solidarity in the common fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, Ramaphosa said.

He added that South African epidemiologist Salim Abdul Karim had already warned on mutations, which may be more transmissible but less severe.

The number of new daily cases of COVID-19 in South Africa increased nearly 13 times between November 24 and December 4. This is a steep increase of 1,184% in 10 days.

The number of new cases per day rose to 16,366 new cases per day on December 4, from a total of 1,275 new cases per day on November 24.

Gauteng was the province where Omicron was originally detected. However, it has now been reported in all nine provinces. Among them, the Western Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, North West and Mpumalanga had high positivity rates, the health minister said.

Gauteng accounted for more than 32% of the country’s 3,020,569 COVID-19 cases as of December 4, according to the National Institute of Communicable Diseases.

Each of the two provinces, KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape, recorded 17.3% of the total COVID-19 infection.

Phaahla said that while the new variant had infected vaccinated people, it had only led to mild illness. Most of those admitted to hospitals were unvaccinated people or young people under the age of 40, most of whom were unvaccinated.

According to Phaahla, only 36.8% of South Africa’s population is fully immunized. All adults and all children aged 12 and over can be vaccinated.

But some 63% of the population is not yet fully vaccinated. The Minister urged everyone to get vaccinated.

He called for more vigilance, as well as health and safety measures, including wearing masks, washing and disinfecting hands, physical distancing, avoiding crowds and prioritizing good ventilation.




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